Black people on Long Island spoke to Newsday about the state...

Black people on Long Island spoke to Newsday about the state of education, housing, health care and jobs. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca; Rick Kopstein; Hazle family

This story was reported and written by Robert Brodsky, Lisa L. Colangelo, Michael Ebert, Jonathan LaMantia, Victor Ocasio and Joie Tyrrell.

The eager, young Black student who makes it through 12 years of public school on Long Island without ever meeting a teacher who looks like her.

A seemingly healthy and fit Hempstead senior, diagnosed unexpectedly with high blood pressure — putting her at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for Black adults.

The expanding Uniondale family, unable to afford the expense of purchasing a starter home, who lived with relatives for years to reach their goal.

An aspiring Southampton-based coder, challenged to find steady work in the competitive tech field, who lands an hourly job at a local golf course while still taking classes to pursue his dream.

Those are some snapshots of the Black experience on Long Island — stories of frustration and inequity, but also of unbridled perseverance. Newsday hit the field in February, Black History Month, in search of issues impacting Long Islanders, Black people in particular.

Newsday spoke to educators, who said Black people long have struggled to land education jobs on Long Island; to medical professionals, who said people of color struggle disproportionately from chronic illness because of poor access to health care; to those struggling to afford a down payment on a house; and to those who fight to find pathways to better-paying jobs.

Here are a few of their stories:

More Black Long Islanders own their homes than a decade ago, but the recent rise in mortgage rates and the area’s shortage of homes for sale have made buying harder, particularly for young people.

From 2013 to 2022, the percentage of Black Long Island homeowners rose by 10 percentage points, according to the latest survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Tiffany and Peter Hazle, 31 and 32, respectively, saved for six years while living with Peter's parents in Uniondale before finding a home in Copiague last April. The couple, who married in 2017 and have two young children, said they focused on paying off debt and avoided renting.

“They saved to just try and get out of the renting game,” Peter Hazle said of his parents. “They didn’t want that for me, which I appreciate because renting, you’re just giving so much money into kind of a black hole.”

On Long Island, the Black-white gap in homeownership rates is narrower than in the rest of the country. It’s about 13 points locally, with 85.3% of white, non-Hispanic households owning homes compared with 72.6% of Black households.

Nationwide, 72.3% of white households own their homes compared with 44.1% of Black households, a 28-point gap that has widened.

“Homeownership is still a pretty important source of wealth building in this country, especially among households of color,” said Jung Choi, principal research associate at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. “Compared to white households, they have a greater share of their wealth in housing.”

But the homeownership rate doesn’t tell the full story. There is a significant divide among age groups, with younger Black Long Islanders much less likely to own their homes.

Choi said data suggests high housing costs may be preventing young adults on Long Island from starting their own households. Families with adult children living at home count as one homeowning household.

Among Black Long Islanders ages 18 to 35 who head households, just 33% own their homes. By comparison, 58.7% of white Long Islanders ages 18 to 35 who head their households own their homes.

Special-purpose credit programs, which allow lenders to offer more favorable terms to groups that have historically faced discriminatory policies, are one way the federal government can address the homeownership gap, according to the Urban Institute. Another is through down-payment assistance programs for first-generation homebuyers.

Dan Lloyd, who leads the local nonprofit Minority Millennials, said Long Island needs different types of housing within reach of first-time buyers, such as townhomes, that could help young people build equity.

Lloyd, 37, rents an apartment with his wife and two young children in Amityville. He wants to buy and had been looking before the pandemic, but houses he eyed that were once in the $350,000 range now sell for $550,000.

“The market is just not in our favor,” he said.

Also, supply is tight and sellers favor buyers with larger down payments, putting Black homebuyers, who typically put down less cash, at a disadvantage, according to the Urban Institute’s analysis of mortgage data reported by lenders.

“Having low inventory definitely makes it more challenging,” said Nicole Burke, an agent at Charles Rutenberg Realty who helped the Hazles buy their home. “It’s an emotional ride. People go into houses and get their heart set on it, put in an offer and just get outbid.”

That happened to the Hazles, who made eight offers before reaching a deal on a three-bedroom home in Copiague. A week after their second child was born, they signed a contract, paying $475,000, which was $50,000 above list price.

“At the end of the day, we have something that is ours,” Tiffany Hazle said.

 Jonathan LaMantia

Black Long Islanders face greater hurdles to higher-paying work and financial stability than their white counterparts, state and federal data shows.

Issues of racial discrimination, educational attainment, access to networking connections and industry pipelines all factor into a job market that’s more challenging for Black workers, according to economists and job training experts.

“Black workers generally earn less than workers overall on Long Island,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst with the state Labor Department’s Hicksville office.

According to census data, Black workers in Nassau County earned a median annual wage of $54,304 in 2022, compared with a median of $61,019 for all Nassau workers16 and older and $70,463 for white, non-Hispanic workers. In Suffolk, Black workers made a median $47,189 compared with $53,006 for all workers and $62,218 for white, non-Hispanic workers.

Black Long Islanders also faced a higher unemployment rate: an average of 6.3% between 2018 and 2022, compared with 4.4% for white residents, according to estimates from the state Labor Department.

Some of the wage disparity may be attributable to “occupational segregation, meaning Black or African American workers are more likely to work in industries that generally pay less,” Patel said.

Nearly one in four — 23.6% — of Black workers on the Island is employed in lower-paying service jobs, such as food preparation, retail sales and health care support roles, according to census data. That's almost double the proportion of white workers in those roles.

Subrina Oliver, chief executive of O-High Technologies in Deer Park, a STEM education consultant, said there are often structural issues, like housing segregation, that make it harder for young Black workers to access good-paying jobs.

Oliver works to connect workforce training programs with industry employers.

Shaundel Crumpton, 25, said he’s been working to improve his skills in the hopes of finding full-time work in the tech field to support himself and his young family.

“I think it will give us better options,” said Crumpton, now pursuing an associate degree in computer science, “especially living in Southampton, [where] everything is upscale pricing.”

Crumpton, who initially went to college at SUNY Morrisville without a planned career path, connected with the Nebula Academy, a Syosset-based software coding boot camp, in 2021.

He learned coding and app development skills that helped him land a job at a military equipment testing firm, but he was laid off when the projects he was working on were shelved. 

For now, he's working an hourly job at a local golf course, but Crumpton said he’s hopeful about finding a higher-paying tech job.

The training “made me realize I can do anything I put my mind to, and if other people see it, I should be able to see it in myself,” he said. “I realized I could be using my talents for something better.”

But challenges are persistent, Oliver said. “School districts that have the highest population of Black and brown students, they are also the highest-needs schools,” she said. “So, they may not be part of those approved career and technical education programs, and they typically don’t have those pathway connections to industry for a number of different reasons.”

Additionally, she said that given the racially homogenous nature of many Island communities, younger Black workers and students pursuing higher-paying fields may lack the type of personal connections their white counterparts have.

“When you’re educated on Long Island, chances are you’re educated with people who look like you,” Oliver said. “The first time for many of us where we’re interacting with different people on a daily basis is in the workplace.

“That’s really unfortunate,” she added. “It sets us up for a lot of misunderstandings.”

— Victor Ocasio

The number of Black educators working in Long Island schools remains exceptionally low compared with their white counterparts and has not increased in recent years despite a student body that has grown more diverse, a Newsday analysis of state data found.

“People unfortunately feel comfortable with hiring people who look like them,” said Brandy Scott, president of the Long Island Black Educators Association. “And you have to break that mold and that can only happen if you do a lot of professional development for staff where they feel comfortable being around and being associated with people of color,” especially Black educators, she added.

State Education Department data showed Black teachers represented less than 2.9% of teachers in Long Island classrooms in 2011-12. Ten years later, that number has slightly declined to 2.7%.

Meanwhile, the Island’s student population has grown more diverse. In 2011-12, about 61% of students were white, 19.9% Hispanic and 2.2% Black. In 2021-22, 46% of students were white, 31.9% Hispanic and nearly 9% Black, Newsday found. 

In addition, the analysis found that most of the Black educators are concentrated in majority-minority school districts.

Jamaal C. Boyce is in his 21st year as a teacher at Riverhead High School, where he leads classes in history, economics and the “Black Experience in America” in one of Long Island’s most diverse districts. His interest in history and working at a summer camp with children guided him to a career in education.

State education data shows that the high school is about 27% white, 9% Black and 61% Hispanic/Latino. Yet, Boyce acknowledges that many times he is the first Black teacher that his teenage students encounter.

“If you're a young person [in] middle school or high school or even elementary and almost all of your teachers are white and female, you might just simply think, ‘Oh, well, I can't do that,’ ” said Boyce, 43, who said he was happy that Riverhead school officials hired him more than two decades ago during a time when many people of color were not working in education.

“The main joy I get out of teaching is when a student says, ‘Hey, I learned something new,' ” he said.

A lack of affordable housing on Long Island has precluded young people from going into teaching, Scott said. In addition, New York City’s Department of Education has stepped up recruitment of teachers of color in the past 15 to 20 years and “therefore people of color find it easier to become a teacher in the city,” she said.

On Long Island, when teachers of color retire, they are not being replaced by other teachers of color, Scott said.

In addition, “Those who do become employed, often in white districts — they feel a culture that is not welcoming, and after a couple of years of that, they decide to leave education or go to work in the city,” she said.

There have been efforts made to diversify the workforce. SUNY Old Westbury is home to the state Education Department’s Teacher Opportunity Corps, which seeks to increase the rate of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals in teaching careers. There are 50 students enrolled.

Supporting young people is key to building a future diverse workforce, said veteran educator Kenneth Card, 59, who recently came out of retirement to serve as the interim superintendent in the Elmont district. He’s served as a professor in education at LIU Brooklyn and is now at SUNY Old Westbury’s School of Education. He started in 1996 as a classroom aide in Huntington and has a career history in teaching and administration.

“We need to look at this from a policy perspective — how can we support young and upcoming students of color and even white students to become interested and engaged in teaching?” he said.

Card advocates a layered approach to attracting candidates of color, from introducing teens to the profession while in high school to supporting college students financially during unpaid classroom observations to working to draw teachers to the Island from city schools.

— Joie Tyrrell and Michael Ebert

Exercising comes naturally to 62-year-old Juliana Johnson, of Hempstead, who walks and rides her bike everywhere.

But the stress of her son’s unexpected death last year made her blood pressure jump, putting her at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for Black adults.

“It was a lot on my body,” said Johnson, who also has Type 2 diabetes.

High blood pressure is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In New York State, 37% of Black, non-Hispanic adults have high blood pressure, compared with 32% of white, non-Hispanic adults, according to the most recent statistics from the state Health Department.

Nationally, Black adults are 30% more likely to have high blood pressure compared with white adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But they are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have their blood pressure under control, leading to an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

This stark inequity is just one of a number of health disparities — ranging from a shorter life expectancy to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality — that impact the Black community on Long Island, as well as nationally.

Dr. Scott Kim, chief medical officer at Harmony Healthcare, said people of color struggle disproportionately from chronic illness for many reasons, including poor access to health care and fresh, nutritious food options in the communities where they live. Fast food often is the most affordable option.

“The story of hypertension and cardiovascular disease and its impacts on the Black American population really goes very deep and gets to some of the core issues of social justice in our society,” Kim said.

One factor is the kind of racism and environment that African American people face every day, said Dr. Zenobia Brown, senior vice president and associate chief medical officer at Northwell Health.

“That high level of societal stress appears to be impacting blood pressure,” she said.

Brown also pointed to environmental barriers such as the lack of cardiologists, primary care doctors and good hospitals where some Black people live.

She said disparities persist even when poverty is taken out of the equation, leading to distrust of hospitals and medication.

“Doctors should be explaining what the medications are for, what procedures are for, and feel comfortable doing that with their patients,” Brown said. “These are things that can be overcome if we take a thoughtful approach.”

Johnson said doctors at Harmony Healthcare of Long Island in Westbury caught the rise in her blood pressure right away and put her on the road to controlling it through lifestyle changes and medication. She also sees a nutritionist at the center to focus on healthier food options.

“I feel better,” said Johnson, who has cut out some sweets and starchy foods and replaced them with fruits and vegetables. “I’m moving forward just trying to stay healthy.”

Dr. Linotte Jean-Jeune, an internal medicine specialist at Harmony Healthcare and Johnson’s doctor, said she has a lot of patients with high blood pressure.

She said research is trying to determine whether genetic factors make Black people more vulnerable, but economics and other issues add to the risk.

“Healthy food is expensive,” she said. “Medication is expensive.”

“Sometimes patients can’t afford the copay or their insurance only covers the office,” Jean-Jeune said.

“Some people don't have adequate knowledge of the disease and think it’s curable, but it’s chronic and you have to take your medication every day,” she added.

When insurance doesn’t pay for a specific medication, even one that works best, she encourages and helps her patients appeal the decision.

“I will always fight for my patients,” Jean-Jeune said.

— Lisa L. Colangelo

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the date when Kenneth Card started as a classroom aide in Huntington.

The eager, young Black student who makes it through 12 years of public school on Long Island without ever meeting a teacher who looks like her.

A seemingly healthy and fit Hempstead senior, diagnosed unexpectedly with high blood pressure — putting her at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for Black adults.

The expanding Uniondale family, unable to afford the expense of purchasing a starter home, who lived with relatives for years to reach their goal.

An aspiring Southampton-based coder, challenged to find steady work in the competitive tech field, who lands an hourly job at a local golf course while still taking classes to pursue his dream.

Those are some snapshots of the Black experience on Long Island — stories of frustration and inequity, but also of unbridled perseverance. Newsday hit the field in February, Black History Month, in search of issues impacting Long Islanders, Black people in particular.

Newsday spoke to educators, who said Black people long have struggled to land education jobs on Long Island; to medical professionals, who said people of color struggle disproportionately from chronic illness because of poor access to health care; to those struggling to afford a down payment on a house; and to those who fight to find pathways to better-paying jobs.

Here are a few of their stories:

HOUSING

Tiffany and Peter Hazle bought a three-bedroom home in Copiague after years of saving. Credit: Hazle family

More Black Long Islanders own their homes than a decade ago, but the recent rise in mortgage rates and the area’s shortage of homes for sale have made buying harder, particularly for young people.

From 2013 to 2022, the percentage of Black Long Island homeowners rose by 10 percentage points, according to the latest survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Tiffany and Peter Hazle, 31 and 32, respectively, saved for six years while living with Peter's parents in Uniondale before finding a home in Copiague last April. The couple, who married in 2017 and have two young children, said they focused on paying off debt and avoided renting.

“They saved to just try and get out of the renting game,” Peter Hazle said of his parents. “They didn’t want that for me, which I appreciate because renting, you’re just giving so much money into kind of a black hole.”

On Long Island, the Black-white gap in homeownership rates is narrower than in the rest of the country. It’s about 13 points locally, with 85.3% of white, non-Hispanic households owning homes compared with 72.6% of Black households.

Nationwide, 72.3% of white households own their homes compared with 44.1% of Black households, a 28-point gap that has widened.

“Homeownership is still a pretty important source of wealth building in this country, especially among households of color,” said Jung Choi, principal research associate at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. “Compared to white households, they have a greater share of their wealth in housing.”

But the homeownership rate doesn’t tell the full story. There is a significant divide among age groups, with younger Black Long Islanders much less likely to own their homes.

Choi said data suggests high housing costs may be preventing young adults on Long Island from starting their own households. Families with adult children living at home count as one homeowning household.

Among Black Long Islanders ages 18 to 35 who head households, just 33% own their homes. By comparison, 58.7% of white Long Islanders ages 18 to 35 who head their households own their homes.

Special-purpose credit programs, which allow lenders to offer more favorable terms to groups that have historically faced discriminatory policies, are one way the federal government can address the homeownership gap, according to the Urban Institute. Another is through down-payment assistance programs for first-generation homebuyers.

Dan Lloyd, who leads the local nonprofit Minority Millennials, said Long Island needs different types of housing within reach of first-time buyers, such as townhomes, that could help young people build equity.

Lloyd, 37, rents an apartment with his wife and two young children in Amityville. He wants to buy and had been looking before the pandemic, but houses he eyed that were once in the $350,000 range now sell for $550,000.

“The market is just not in our favor,” he said.

Also, supply is tight and sellers favor buyers with larger down payments, putting Black homebuyers, who typically put down less cash, at a disadvantage, according to the Urban Institute’s analysis of mortgage data reported by lenders.

“Having low inventory definitely makes it more challenging,” said Nicole Burke, an agent at Charles Rutenberg Realty who helped the Hazles buy their home. “It’s an emotional ride. People go into houses and get their heart set on it, put in an offer and just get outbid.”

That happened to the Hazles, who made eight offers before reaching a deal on a three-bedroom home in Copiague. A week after their second child was born, they signed a contract, paying $475,000, which was $50,000 above list price.

“At the end of the day, we have something that is ours,” Tiffany Hazle said.

 Jonathan LaMantia

JOBS

Black Long Islanders face greater hurdles to higher-paying work and financial stability than their white counterparts, state and federal data shows.

Black workers generally earn less than workers overall on Long Island.

—Shital Patel, labor market analyst with the state Labor Department

Issues of racial discrimination, educational attainment, access to networking connections and industry pipelines all factor into a job market that’s more challenging for Black workers, according to economists and job training experts.

“Black workers generally earn less than workers overall on Long Island,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst with the state Labor Department’s Hicksville office.

According to census data, Black workers in Nassau County earned a median annual wage of $54,304 in 2022, compared with a median of $61,019 for all Nassau workers16 and older and $70,463 for white, non-Hispanic workers. In Suffolk, Black workers made a median $47,189 compared with $53,006 for all workers and $62,218 for white, non-Hispanic workers.

Black Long Islanders also faced a higher unemployment rate: an average of 6.3% between 2018 and 2022, compared with 4.4% for white residents, according to estimates from the state Labor Department.

Some of the wage disparity may be attributable to “occupational segregation, meaning Black or African American workers are more likely to work in industries that generally pay less,” Patel said.

Nearly one in four — 23.6% — of Black workers on the Island is employed in lower-paying service jobs, such as food preparation, retail sales and health care support roles, according to census data. That's almost double the proportion of white workers in those roles.

Subrina Oliver, chief executive of O-High Technologies in Deer Park, a STEM education consultant, said there are often structural issues, like housing segregation, that make it harder for young Black workers to access good-paying jobs.

Oliver works to connect workforce training programs with industry employers.

Shaundel Crumpton, 25, said he’s been working to improve his skills in hopes of finding full-time work in the tech field. Credit: Kyna Eleazer

Shaundel Crumpton, 25, said he’s been working to improve his skills in the hopes of finding full-time work in the tech field to support himself and his young family.

“I think it will give us better options,” said Crumpton, now pursuing an associate degree in computer science, “especially living in Southampton, [where] everything is upscale pricing.”

Crumpton, who initially went to college at SUNY Morrisville without a planned career path, connected with the Nebula Academy, a Syosset-based software coding boot camp, in 2021.

He learned coding and app development skills that helped him land a job at a military equipment testing firm, but he was laid off when the projects he was working on were shelved. 

For now, he's working an hourly job at a local golf course, but Crumpton said he’s hopeful about finding a higher-paying tech job.

The training “made me realize I can do anything I put my mind to, and if other people see it, I should be able to see it in myself,” he said. “I realized I could be using my talents for something better.”

But challenges are persistent, Oliver said. “School districts that have the highest population of Black and brown students, they are also the highest-needs schools,” she said. “So, they may not be part of those approved career and technical education programs, and they typically don’t have those pathway connections to industry for a number of different reasons.”

Additionally, she said that given the racially homogenous nature of many Island communities, younger Black workers and students pursuing higher-paying fields may lack the type of personal connections their white counterparts have.

“When you’re educated on Long Island, chances are you’re educated with people who look like you,” Oliver said. “The first time for many of us where we’re interacting with different people on a daily basis is in the workplace.

“That’s really unfortunate,” she added. “It sets us up for a lot of misunderstandings.”

— Victor Ocasio

EDUCATION

The number of Black educators working in Long Island schools remains exceptionally low compared with their white counterparts and has not increased in recent years despite a student body that has grown more diverse, a Newsday analysis of state data found.

People unfortunately feel comfortable with hiring people who look like them.

—Brandy Scott, president of the Long Island Black Educators Association

“People unfortunately feel comfortable with hiring people who look like them,” said Brandy Scott, president of the Long Island Black Educators Association. “And you have to break that mold and that can only happen if you do a lot of professional development for staff where they feel comfortable being around and being associated with people of color,” especially Black educators, she added.

State Education Department data showed Black teachers represented less than 2.9% of teachers in Long Island classrooms in 2011-12. Ten years later, that number has slightly declined to 2.7%.

Meanwhile, the Island’s student population has grown more diverse. In 2011-12, about 61% of students were white, 19.9% Hispanic and 2.2% Black. In 2021-22, 46% of students were white, 31.9% Hispanic and nearly 9% Black, Newsday found. 

In addition, the analysis found that most of the Black educators are concentrated in majority-minority school districts.

Jamaal C. Boyce is in his 21st year as a teacher at Riverhead High School, where he leads classes in history, economics and the “Black Experience in America” in one of Long Island’s most diverse districts. His interest in history and working at a summer camp with children guided him to a career in education.

State education data shows that the high school is about 27% white, 9% Black and 61% Hispanic/Latino. Yet, Boyce acknowledges that many times he is the first Black teacher that his teenage students encounter.

“If you're a young person [in] middle school or high school or even elementary and almost all of your teachers are white and female, you might just simply think, ‘Oh, well, I can't do that,’ ” said Boyce, 43, who said he was happy that Riverhead school officials hired him more than two decades ago during a time when many people of color were not working in education.

Riverhead High School's Jamaal C. Boyce teaches a critical thinking class called "The Black Experience In America." Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

“The main joy I get out of teaching is when a student says, ‘Hey, I learned something new,' ” he said.

A lack of affordable housing on Long Island has precluded young people from going into teaching, Scott said. In addition, New York City’s Department of Education has stepped up recruitment of teachers of color in the past 15 to 20 years and “therefore people of color find it easier to become a teacher in the city,” she said.

On Long Island, when teachers of color retire, they are not being replaced by other teachers of color, Scott said.

In addition, “Those who do become employed, often in white districts — they feel a culture that is not welcoming, and after a couple of years of that, they decide to leave education or go to work in the city,” she said.

There have been efforts made to diversify the workforce. SUNY Old Westbury is home to the state Education Department’s Teacher Opportunity Corps, which seeks to increase the rate of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals in teaching careers. There are 50 students enrolled.

Supporting young people is key to building a future diverse workforce, said veteran educator Kenneth Card, 59, who recently came out of retirement to serve as the interim superintendent in the Elmont district. He’s served as a professor in education at LIU Brooklyn and is now at SUNY Old Westbury’s School of Education. He started in 1996 as a classroom aide in Huntington and has a career history in teaching and administration.

“We need to look at this from a policy perspective — how can we support young and upcoming students of color and even white students to become interested and engaged in teaching?” he said.

Card advocates a layered approach to attracting candidates of color, from introducing teens to the profession while in high school to supporting college students financially during unpaid classroom observations to working to draw teachers to the Island from city schools.

— Joie Tyrrell and Michael Ebert

HEALTH

Dr. Linotte Jean-Jeune speaks with one of her patients, Juliana...

Dr. Linotte Jean-Jeune speaks with one of her patients, Juliana Johnson, of Hempstead. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Exercising comes naturally to 62-year-old Juliana Johnson, of Hempstead, who walks and rides her bike everywhere.

But the stress of her son’s unexpected death last year made her blood pressure jump, putting her at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for Black adults.

“It was a lot on my body,” said Johnson, who also has Type 2 diabetes.

High blood pressure is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In New York State, 37% of Black, non-Hispanic adults have high blood pressure, compared with 32% of white, non-Hispanic adults, according to the most recent statistics from the state Health Department.

37% of Black, non-Hispanic adults have high blood pressure, compared with 32% of white, non-Hispanic adults

Nationally, Black adults are 30% more likely to have high blood pressure compared with white adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But they are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have their blood pressure under control, leading to an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

This stark inequity is just one of a number of health disparities — ranging from a shorter life expectancy to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality — that impact the Black community on Long Island, as well as nationally.

Dr. Scott Kim, chief medical officer at Harmony Healthcare, said people of color struggle disproportionately from chronic illness for many reasons, including poor access to health care and fresh, nutritious food options in the communities where they live. Fast food often is the most affordable option.

“The story of hypertension and cardiovascular disease and its impacts on the Black American population really goes very deep and gets to some of the core issues of social justice in our society,” Kim said.

The story of hypertension and cardiovascular disease and its impacts on the Black American population really goes very deep and gets to some of the core issues of social justice in our society.

— Dr. Scott Kim, chief medical officer at Harmony Healthcare

One factor is the kind of racism and environment that African American people face every day, said Dr. Zenobia Brown, senior vice president and associate chief medical officer at Northwell Health.

“That high level of societal stress appears to be impacting blood pressure,” she said.

Brown also pointed to environmental barriers such as the lack of cardiologists, primary care doctors and good hospitals where some Black people live.

She said disparities persist even when poverty is taken out of the equation, leading to distrust of hospitals and medication.

“Doctors should be explaining what the medications are for, what procedures are for, and feel comfortable doing that with their patients,” Brown said. “These are things that can be overcome if we take a thoughtful approach.”

Johnson said doctors at Harmony Healthcare of Long Island in Westbury caught the rise in her blood pressure right away and put her on the road to controlling it through lifestyle changes and medication. She also sees a nutritionist at the center to focus on healthier food options.

“I feel better,” said Johnson, who has cut out some sweets and starchy foods and replaced them with fruits and vegetables. “I’m moving forward just trying to stay healthy.”

Dr. Linotte Jean-Jeune, Harmony Healthcare. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Dr. Linotte Jean-Jeune, an internal medicine specialist at Harmony Healthcare and Johnson’s doctor, said she has a lot of patients with high blood pressure.

She said research is trying to determine whether genetic factors make Black people more vulnerable, but economics and other issues add to the risk.

“Healthy food is expensive,” she said. “Medication is expensive.”

“Sometimes patients can’t afford the copay or their insurance only covers the office,” Jean-Jeune said.

“Some people don't have adequate knowledge of the disease and think it’s curable, but it’s chronic and you have to take your medication every day,” she added.

When insurance doesn’t pay for a specific medication, even one that works best, she encourages and helps her patients appeal the decision.

“I will always fight for my patients,” Jean-Jeune said.

— Lisa L. Colangelo

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the date when Kenneth Card started as a classroom aide in Huntington.

Animal cruelty case update … Riverhead farmland preservation … LIRR IOU invoices Credit: Newsday

Gilgo-related search in Manorville ... UBS Arena MTV Awards ... Jericho fatal crash ... Girls softball league

Animal cruelty case update … Riverhead farmland preservation … LIRR IOU invoices Credit: Newsday

Gilgo-related search in Manorville ... UBS Arena MTV Awards ... Jericho fatal crash ... Girls softball league

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